By Claudia Nmai
As a mechanical engineering major and prospective Italian minor, Michael McDermott ’22 was excited to go to Florence this summer to learn the language and experience the culture. However, when the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) suspended nearly all learning abroad opportunities late last month, he was left to scramble to make new summer plans.
And he’s not alone. Many have found difficulty finding alternative opportunities for the upcoming months. “You had something sort of set in stone, but then now you have to reverse course and find something else,” McDermott said.
By the time students received word of BOSP suspending these programs in March and April, many internship deadlines had passed. McDermott found that many engineering applications closed during January and February, making the search for summer internships more difficult.
This is not the first time BOSP has cancelled its programming due to the ongoing pandemic. Since spring 2020, all study abroad programs have been cancelled or postponed.
BOSP initially offered expanded study abroad options for the summer of 2021, but eventually cancelled all in-person offerings except the Oxford program, for which the final decision will be made by May 5.
While students interviewed were disappointed by the cancellations, most understood why this was an important decision.
“Cancelling was a good idea,” said Maddy Fischer ’23. “I’m grateful they gave us a good amount of notice.”
But they still found challenges planning for summer after the cancellations. Tori Pollak ’23, a prospective international relations major, applied to the Madrid and Santiago programs to give herself “as many options as possible.” She said her plans are now “really up in the air” after both were cancelled.
While she is currently applying to available internships and considering a flex quarter to take some classes, the summer will not be what she imagined.
“I was really looking forward to some kind of academic growth experience,” she said.
On the other hand, Erick Bravo ’23 is hopeful the Oxford program will still happen. Around 33 million people in the United Kingdom have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While he said that BOSP’s weekly updates have mostly delivered good news, Bravo remains cautious.
In case of a potential cancellation, he is considering enrolling in classes full-time at Stanford during the summer quarter.
Fischer, a prospective German studies minor, also found her summer plans through the Krupp Internship Program to be in limbo. Although the program will be offered on an entirely remote basis, Fischer said the nine-hour time difference means it’s not entirely feasible to continue with the internship. “It’s been a bit rough,” she said. “I’m looking for other opportunities for summer research now.”
Not all students were left rushing to make new arrangements. Some had contingency plans. Gisselle Gonzalez-Perez ’24, who was planning on participating in the Oaxaca overseas seminar, applied to other summer programs in addition to BOSP. “They did let us know ahead of time that cancellation was a possibility,” she said.
Beyond just this summer, the cancellations and uncertainty have forced many of these students to reevaluate their academic plans for the rest of college.
McDermott hopes to tack on a summer quarter to his senior year to accommodate going abroad. Meanwhile, Pollak is planning to take one or two core classes this summer in order to maintain academic progress and graduate on time while planning to study abroad at some point in the future.
Despite the challenges, students are hopeful for the day they can finally enjoy their time overseas.
Pollak already applied again to go to Madrid in the fall. “I’m just hoping once everything is more certain, the options will be more concrete,” she said.